NORTH FULTON, Ga. – As part of a drug bust Aug. 8, Roswell Police found several pounds of marijuana in a home belonging to suspected drug dealers. They also found 80 grams of a substance distilled from marijuana called “wax.”
Wax is a new form of the old drug. According to officials, wax is a concentrated form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in pot that gives users their “high.”
Marijuana wax is more than 80 percent pure THC compared with the average high grade marijuana leaf at 20 percent to 30 percent THC, according to police. It can be eaten or used in e-cigarettes, as well as rolled and smoked.
Roswell Police Spokesman Zachary Frommer said wax has been popping up recently in Roswell.
“In the last couple years, it’s become more popular,” he said.
Of more concern than the increasing use of the drug is that people are making it themselves in home labs.
“Home chefs are making it instead of buying it,” Frommer said. “You can go on the Internet to learn how to do it.”
Because the chemicals to make it are highly flammable, the process is prone to explosion.
“Wax is dangerous to make and to ingest,” Frommer said.
Wax is also known under other names, such as butter or Butane Hash Oil (BHO). Traditional hash was produced by rubbing marijuana plants through metal screen sieves to separate the THC crystals from the plant.
Wax is made by “blasting” a chemical solvent, such as butane, CO2, through the plant matter, then “purging” the solvent away. But these solvents don’t just extract the THC, they also pull substances from other parts of the plant, and traces of the solvent remain as well.
The trace amounts of solvent are one of the reasons many users refer to the onset of the effects as a “mule kick” because of the strong rush.
Wax can vary in appearance from a dark brown goo to a crumbly cheese consistency.
Michele Leonhart, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, said before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee April 2 that the use of wax is increasing across the country and can be extremely dangerous.
“In 2013, the THC content of leaf marijuana averaged 14 percent while the THC content of marijuana concentrates averaged 54 percent, with some samples reported as high as 99 percent,” Leonhart said. “Highly flammable butane gas is used to extract the THC from the marijuana leaf, and has resulted in home explosions, injuries and deaths.”
But is wax still illegal? Most emphatically, yes.
Georgia law prohibits all synthetic or natural products containing more than 15 percent by weight of THC.